The president of the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association says she feels like a broken record in saying it takes two sides to bargain—again.
But this is where Wednesday morning found Alice Rees as she fielded media queries about a tentative contract deal the province struck with the BC Teachers’ Federation Tuesday evening.
“Bargaining is the art of the possible,” she said. “The executive committee of the BCTF clearly thinks that this is all that is possible at this time.
“We were living under 1987 standards that were negotiated at the dawn of teacher negotiations,” she added. “…Generally, it’s an agreement that both parties are saying this is as much as we can do.”
Rees explained that the extended medical benefit upgrades teachers receive under the agreement are the first since 1987.
The class size and composition issues ignored in the agreement are no less of an issue today than they were at the beginning of the negotiation process, she added.
All the same, early Wednesday morning Premier Christy Clark held a teleconference from West Kelowna telling media this would give parents piece of mind over the summer break.
“This tentative agreement means parents and students can enjoy the summer break and know that when school resumes in the fall there will be certainty in the classroom, with the focus being on the children,” she said.
Should the teachers decide to ratify the agreement, negotiations would still resume next March as the agreement is only temporary.
“We’ll be holding a vote on this hopefully within the next 48 hours,” Rees said, adding “we’re hopeful that there will be a chance for the schools to be all that they can be again.”
Rees said teachers will not forget they paid for smaller class sizes and a more manageable class composition in wage constraints and that, in removing the language in their agreement that protected those provisions in 2002, the government has done a disservice to B.C. students.
The issue has been to the Supreme Court, which ruled the government was in the wrong when those protections were summarily removed and must deal with the issue.
It “is going to be a very sore point with teachers” when the BCTF and BC Public School Employers’ Association return to the bargaining table next spring, Rees said.
In the meantime, the BCTF filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday that alleges, in part, the provincial government, via that same net-zero mandate, caused the BCPSEA to bargain in bad faith.
Political analysts are already calling the teachers’ dispute one of the major election issues for 2013.